An earlier version of this article was published on Tro Smith on November 13, 2013.
If you are using Facebook to promote your hotel or travel destination, you are probably not taking advantage of the social network’s biggest opportunity.
Referral marketing is at the very heart of what effective marketing is all about.
Think about it.
Don’t you value a recommendation from someone you know much more than a commercial or an advertisement?
Aren’t you less impressed that a celebrity endorses a resort than if your old college buddy says, “Wow this place is freaking awesome”?
Therefore referrals are a function of relationships and everyone knows new sales are a result of referrals so:
New relationships = new sales.
What is the biggest relationship management system in the world?
With over half a billion active users, the travel industry has been missing out on leveraging the biggest network on earth and has been doing so in grand fashion.
It’s not about the traditional channels of marketing:
Advertisement > Impressions > Conversions
It’s all about engaging relationships:
Recommendation > Testimonials > Referrals
Many travel resorts are not happy with the results of their Facebook marketing campaigns after many months.
The primary reason is they are misusing their facebook page as a “broadcast advertisement” platform.
This “blast a message repeatedly” approach may work well for branding where image and perception is the priority but on the internet sales are a result of meaningful conversations.
The more meaningful the relationship the more valuable the discussion and the more likely a sales referral or conversion will be the end result of the interaction.
Meanwhile most travel resorts are still getting it wrong.
They insist on using their FB page as an advertisement feed when they could be pursuing valuable recommendations and testimonials from recent guests which is surprisingly easy to do.
These satisfied guests would be much more likely to discuss their positive experience which will then be shared with their friends and followers and can lead to a new sales referral.
However, very few travel pages on Facebook are using this strategy.
Even less take the extra step to find their most satisfied and “popular” customers and ask them to write a review or record a video testimonial.
This is a very large opportunity missed—and again, that’s not very difficult to accomplish.
Case in point.
Most leading resorts are basically using their Facebook page to broadcast “advertisements” to their fans instead of “hosting” a real meaningful discussion.
This is easy to do as obviously there are many people who enjoy traveling to Sandals and Breezes so surely there are tons of facebook users who would also be willing to discuss their experience.
The question is how can you find them?
Facebook works really well when it comes to finding “fans” but locating “ambassadors” or users who have more influence than average is more difficult.
However, a third party tool can make it easy to identify the most active and influential users and find the best related posts and comments.
With this valuable information travel destinations can now share more relevant and engaging content on their page which will create a real discussion founded on a positive experience that someone had at their resort.
A key driver for this strategy is the fact that people love to talk about the places they’ve visited AND had a great time. This is the reason why popular resorts like Sandals and Breezes have so many likes on their facebook pages.
However, all facebook users are not equal.
Some have more influence than others and this can make a big difference in the results of your marketing campaign.
This is where a fan ranking feature becomes extremely useful.
Now you can view your facebook fans by rank and use this information to determine who you should approach for a testimonial.
Then, once you start the discussion on your page you can then use timeline management tools to make managing the feedback and assigning follow up to team members a piece of cake.
The first step to finding an ambassador for your resort is to make sure that your customers are in fact satisfied.
This question has to be asked:
Are your customers’ expectations being exceeded or do they feel buyer’s remorse for choosing your resort?
This powerful strategy is extremely effective but completely dependent on having actual satisfied customers because only they would be motivated enough to share how awesome their experience was.
A best practice is to establish an ambassador program with the objective of providing incentives for your satisfied guests who want to share their positive experience on Facebook.
The details about the program should be published on your website which will make the process of explaining your program easy for current and potential ambassadors.
You can also add a wrinkle of competition into your ambassador promotion by using the new Facebook feature which allows contests directly on the timeline. You can use free tools to help you manage this kind of contest. If you want to find inspiration for such an effective timeline contest, I highly advise you to read this blog post with a lot of relevant Facebook timeline contest ideas.
This can result in having multiple ambassadors all over the world promoting your destination, as they “compete to win”.
Also, don’t hesitate to promote your ambassadors competition directly on site, while travelers are enjoying their trip with you. Read our previous article here about how to leverage your travel destination to get more qualified fans on Facebook.
What’s your take on this? Does your travel destination still publish promotional content or have you started to focus on your relationship with your enthusiastic clients to benefit from their positive experience with you?